Sega apologizes for calling crunch-borne Golden Axe game ‘janky’ and ‘buggy’

Sega has apologized for characterizing its forthcoming free Golden Axe demo as possibly “janky” or “buggy,” and titling it Golden Axed. The apology comes after one of its original developers shared his unpleasant memories of the circumstances under which it was created.

Golden Axed is a single-level proof-of-concept Sega will offer free on Oct. 18 in celebration of the company’s 60th anniversary. It was a “vertical slice” worked up by Sega Studios Australia in 2012, for a 2.5D side-scrolling brawler called Golden Axe: Reborn. The project ultimately went nowhere.

On Thursday, developer Tim Dawson called Golden Axe: Reborn “my personal nexus of nightmare hours, inept management, industry realisations and heroics achieved with a small team under unreasonable conditions.”

While Sega, on the demo’s Steam page says it went back to Golden Axe: Reborn developers to prepare the work for release, Dawson said the first he’d heard about this was after news releases mentioned it on Wednesday. Another developer, Sanatana Mishra, said Dawson “programmed the entire thing from scratch, and I was in charge of design, so when they say they reached out to the team that made it I don’t really know who that means?”

Making matters worse, the Steam page said, “Golden Axed may be janky, may be buggy, may be an artifact of its time,” apparently to prepare players for glitches in an incomplete work. Dawson replied:

On Thursday, Sega removed the offending comments and gave statements to Eurogamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun apologizing for the flip treatment of the demo.

“We certainly didn’t mean to dredge up painful memories for Mr. Dawson and his former colleagues or appear disrespectful,” Sega said. “We’ve removed the line from the Steam copy that could have been taken as a slur on the development and would like to reassure everyone that it was intended as a comment on the build we had ported to PC, not the quality of the original work.”

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In a lengthy Twitter thread that caught wide attention there, Reddit, and on gaming forums, Dawson recounted his misery building Golden Axe: Reborn over two solid weeks of 14-hour days, working for ungrateful, if not also ignorant, studio management. The experience left him feeling “dead inside,” Dawson wrote.

Dawson and Mishra went on to co-found the independent studio Witch Beam in 2013. They (along with Jeff van Dyck) launched Assault Android Cactus in 2015, with versions now available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. Their next work is called Unpacking, due for a 2021 launch on PC.

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